“The Seven Secrets of highly successful Bodyworkers” New article by Meghan Mari and Rachel Fairweather
(with acknowledgements to Steven Covey for his inspirational book: The Seven habits of Highly successful people)
What makes a really GREAT bodyworker?
During my fifteen year love affair with bodywork I have practised, taught, studied and received massage in many diverse parts of the world including the UK, USA, Europe and Thailand. I have known bodyworkers from many different disciplines and walks of life, from the extreme ends of the “New Age” to the resolutely scientific. I have experienced people working with muscles, bones, auras, Qi, cranial rhythms, Sen lines, meridian lines, manipulating organs, fascia, using movement and stillness. I have seen healing happen through working on the body, off the body and in the deepest layers of the body.
From all of this it has become apparent to me that some bodyworkers “make it” – they are successful, happy, have the practice they desire, feel like they are travelling their life path, and are financially content in whatever way that means to them. Others never quite seem to get there, their practises don’t flourish, clients don’t come back to them, they are scraping a living emotionally and financially.
So what is the difference? What makes a truly great bodyworker? It seems no single quality alone will suffice. I have seen highly gifted and intuitive therapists burn out rapidly as they become overwhelmed with the practicalities of running a business. I have seen therapists who are successful business people and know their anatomy inside and out but who have no sensitivity of touch or ability to relate to clients.
This article attempts to distill the essence of some of those qualities I have observed in the therapists who are living and loving their life and work to the full – the Seven Secrets of Highly Successful Bodyworkers.
Secret One: Enthusiasm
“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm” Emerson
“Nothing is so contagious as enthusiasm; it moves stones, it charms brutes. Enthusiasm is the genius of sincerity and truth accomplishes no victories without it” Bulwer-Lytton
Great bodyworkers LOVE what they do. They are excited, animated and energised by their work. They love to talk about it, read about it, let others know how great bodywork is. And their enthusiasm doesn’t just stop at the bodywork; they are energetic about all aspects of their practice; how they can make their clinic room the most restful and appealing to their clients, how they can design a great business card or leaflet, how they can find the best clinic or colleagues to work with. Enthusiasm is contagious, your clients want to know that you believe in what you do, they want a piece of what makes you buzz. If you are bored by your work, your clients will know and, lets face it, who wants to be around someone who is jaded .
One of my first teachers said to me “I have to constantly find ways to stop myself getting bored with massage”. That is what good bodyworkers do- they are fascinated by the body, always finding new ways to achieve better results with their clients, looking for new techniques. If you are still doing the same routine you learned five years ago, chances are you will be bored. So if you are jaded with your work, go and get some training, find new ways to work, move, break out of the box. Find a colleague to swap with and learn some new techniques. Read a great bodywork book. Surf the internet for inspiring bodywork sites. Rediscover your passion for your work and watch your practice grow.
Secret Two: Perseverance
“Victory belongs to the most persevering” Napoleon
“ I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident, they came by work” Edison
“ If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful after all” Michelangelo
Like these famous characters, successful bodyworkers know the value of hard work and perseverance. Great therapists “keep on keeping on” when things are not going their way, pick themselves back up after mistakes and failures. No matter how talented you are, building a successful practice takes time, work and perseverance. Don’t expect the phone to just start ringing when you qualify; you need to put in effort and good old fashioned elbow grease to get those clients. Remember the old adage “If you love what you do you’ll never work another day in your life”. So love your vocation, work hard at it and enjoy the journey.
Secret Three: Be open to new learning
“As for me all I know is that I know nothing” Socrates
“ To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge” Disraeli
The fascinating paradox is that great bodyworkers “know their stuff” yet at the same time are comfortable with “not knowing” and are always striving to learn more. Taoist sages claim that “one who does not know actually knows, and one who knows really does not know”. To be empty, to recognize how little we know is to be abundant. Successful bodyworkers are always open to new learning, and recognise we are always beginners with so much to learn. There is a wonderful story in the book “ Beyond Shiatsu” by the inspirational bodyworker and teacher Ohashi as follows
“In the 1970s I gave some sessions to the late prima ballerina Margot Fonteyn. After one of them she said she was attending ballet classes for beginners. I asked her “ Why are you- a famous, top ballerina- taking a beginners basic course with 18 year old kids. She said “If I don’t take this class every day, I can tell it in my performance; and if I don’t take this class for 2 days my choreographer can tell and if I don’t take it for 3 days, an experienced audience can tell”. This is the essence of mastery – to always be open to new learning, to seek out inspirational teachers and mentors, to use their experience to give you shortcuts to the success you desire.
Secret Four: Great Touch
“ Good bodywork is 90% perception and 10% technique: (Christophe Somer; Rolfer)
Successful bodyworkers have great touch. Their work has focus, sensitivity and connection. The term “listening touch” coined by Rollin Becker describes this perfectly. Good listening touch is different than knowing lots of techniques- skills are important but if they are carried out with lack of focus and feeling, your work will be ineffective. It doesn’t matter whether you are doing sports massage, relaxation massage, aromatherapy, shiatsu, craniosacral work or Thai massage, the therapists who get good results and retain clients have great touch. This doesn’t mean they were just born with it: like everything else, good touch and sensitivity comes from application, focus and experience. Good teachers will teach you not just technique but how to touch – how it feels to palpate a tight muscle, restricted fascia, stagnant energy or the gentle tide of the cranial rhythm. Receiving bodywork yourself will teach you what feels good and what doesn’t. Cultivate your sense of touch by being fascinated by the body and its hidden rhythms and find yourself a good teacher whose touch thrills your senses.
Secret Five: Outcome orientated treatments
Successful bodyworkers are focussed on the outcome of their treatments not just what style or techniques they offer. If a client wants to relax, a good therapist doesn’t just launch into the same old tired routine but digs into their toolbox of techniques and finds what they can use to make this unique individual relax. This may well be entirely different from what will be needed to enable the next client to achieve deep relaxation. At Jing, our medical massage courses look at how to reduce pain within 1-6 treatments from a combination of advanced techniques including trigger point, myofascial release and stretching. Being outcome orientated builds practices and retains clients as they know exactly what they can expect to achieve from the treatment or series of treatments. Being outcome orientated also relies on good consultation and assessment skills so you know what your client needs and expects.
Secret Six: Graceful Body mechanics
“ The energy is rooted in the feet, developed in the legs, directed by the waist and expressed trhough the fingers” (Tai Chi classics)
You can spot a good bodyworker a mile away from the grace and ease of their bodies when they work. They are focussed and at one with their work. Just watching them makes you feel relaxed. At Jing, we place primary importance on teaching our students great body mechanics. You will learn to move with ease and fluidity and to avoid techniques that place strain on hands, necks, backs and wrists. Learn the dance of massage, moving according to the principles of Tai Chi, using breath and energy and from a firm rooted foundation.
Good bodyworkers also understand that “less is more” and use graceful body mechanics to move from a position of ease:
“ Over and over again people come to me and they tell me, you just don’t know how strong I am. They say “strength” and I want to hear “balance”. The strength idea has effort in it; this is not what I am looking for. Strength that has effort in it is not what you need; you need the strength that is the result of ease” (Ida Rolf, founder of Rolfing)
Secret Seven: Know your worth
Successful therapists know their worth and charge appropriately for what they do. They understand that money is just a unit of energy and that if you are not charging appropriately for what you do, this is a quick route to exhaustion and resentment. Good bodyworkers are able to feel confident about re-booking clients as their treatments are professional, appropriate and outcome oriented.
The Jing Institute of Advanced Massage Training is an organisation dedicated to excellence in all aspects of postgraduate massage training. Based in Brighton, we offer courses around the country. Our courses include longer qualifications in advanced massage including our revolutionary BTEC Level 6 (degree level) in Advanced Clinical and Sports massage and 1-2 day CPD courses in Hot Stone Fusion, trigger point, myofascial release, stretching, pregnancy, on site, living anatomy and many others. Please call or check our website for further information and course dates.
Tel: 01273 628942
Copyright Jing Institute of Advanced Massage . Text Rachel Fairweather. Photos Meghan Mari